Today is Earth Day, a day where we all take a moment to celebrate and reflect on the natural world around us. And there’s so much to celebrate! But there’s a serious side to this holiday, too—because with every passing year, climate change disrupts, decays, and devastates our planet. So, we also use Earth Day to shed light on topics like pollution, carbon emissions, and environmental preservation. And...you guessed it: health.
What does health have to do with climate change, you ask? Well, a lot, actually. Of course, some issues are more obvious than others. For example: how pollution damages the animal products you consume, how air quality affects your lungs, and how certain types of waste disposal alter the water that you drink, wash, and cook with. But it might surprise you that climate change has connections to sexual and reproductive health, too.
A 2009 study found that, for every 7 USD invested in basic family planning, carbon emissions would be reduced by more than one tonne. In contrast, it would cost 32 USD to reach the same level of reduction in carbon emissions via investment in low-carbon technologies. That means that fighting climate change by investing in family planning is 4.5 times less expensive than fighting climate change with technology that was literally designed for that purpose.
So, how is it that something as simple as family planning can play such an important role in battling climate change? The answer, we’ve found, isn’t as complicated as you’d think.
First and foremost, increasing the provision of family planning information and services worldwide helps women and girls decide if, and when, they want to have children. This, in turn, helps reduce rates of unwanted pregnancies, and therefore birth rates. That part is important; because humans have by and large the worst impact on the planet. In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has determined that not only is the warming of the current climate system historically unprecedented—as in, never seen before for tens to many thousands of years—but also most if not all of the climate change we’ve observed is anthropogenic in origin (caused by human activity). So it makes sense that if family planning leads to fewer people being born each year, the impact of humans on the planet is lessened (or, at least, slowed). In other words: smaller populations = better for the environment.
We know that when it comes to something as big as climate change, it’s easy to feel like it’s all out of your control. You may feel like everything you do—from recycling a water bottle to reusing a towel before washing it—isn’t doing much at all. But we’re here to tell you that every little bit helps. So the next time you go to the clinic, take a birth control pill, or use a condom, remember that you’re helping more than just yourself. And if you aren’t yet using a contraceptive method, we’re here to help! Just ask Nivi to learn about your options, and get directed to clinics and resources near you. Remember: you’re saving the planet!